Friday, 24 March 2017

Exhausted, covered in mud with nowhere to go: This is what it's like to flee the fighting in Mosul

Exhausted, covered in mud with nowhere to go: This is what it's like to flee the fighting in Mosul

Updated

A steady stream of trucks and buses roll up outside the main entrance of Iraq's Hammam Al Alil camp. Clutching a few bags and suitcases, families pile out.
"From one area to the next there are just bodies everywhere!" a woman who has just arrived from west Mosul said.

"As soon as you leave the house you see air strikes."
Another man spotted his relatives once he got off the bus and started sobbing.
"We haven't seen each other in three years," he said tearfully, hugging his cousins.
"I escaped through the drains," he said. "The family is all together now. Thank God."
It is cold, wet and miserable here.
Families sit around in the mud, exhausted from their journeys and unsure where to go next.



This past week saw the highest number of people flee Mosul since the battle to retake the city began last October.
More than 10,000 people a day are streaming out of the west of City, where Iraqi forces are battling Islamic State, only to find that the nearest camps are now full.

Hammam Al Alil camp seeing thousands of arrivals

The Iraqi army said it received 15,000 people at the Hammam Al Alil transit point in just 10 hours on Thursday.
"We are building another 5,000 tents for another 5,000 families," UNHCR's head of Mosul operations Hovig Etyemezian said.
"It is under construction now. We hope in a few days that camp will be open. So now all the new arrivals are sent to the east of Mosul or to other camps."
In the confusion of fleeing Mosul, many were separated from their relatives.



Crying women were waiting by the gate of the camp registration office, desperate for news of their missing loved ones.
"He was wearing blue trousers. They tell me he was checked in and is here in the camp somewhere," said Um Mohamad, who was searching for her 15-year-old son.
"He's my only son," she said, sobbing. "He's sick. He can't walk properly."
Thirteen-year-old Ahmad had been separated from his parents.
"My uncles are here in the camp but I can't find them," he said.
"I think my mum and my dad are in Makmour. Can you take me there?"
An aid worker from the NGO Save the Children took the young boy away to help trace his family.

400,000 people could still be trapped in the old city

The UN is warning that "the worst is still to come" in Mosul, with 400,000 civilians still trapped in the old city.
"People have started to burn furniture, old clothes, plastic, anything they can burn to keep warm at night, because it is still raining heavily and the temperatures at night in particular drop significantly," said Bruno Geddo, chief of UNHCR Iraq, after touring Hamman Al Alil camp.
"The more you go without food, the more you become panicked and the more you want to run away.
"At the same time it (the outflow) is increasing because the security forces are advancing and therefore more people are in a position to run away where the risk is likely more mitigated."



Mr Geddo said the international community needed to urgently increase its funding for the humanitarian response for Mosul.
"We have made an appeal for $37 million because we need to scale up," he said.
"There is a sense of urgency. At any time we could have a mass outflow. Because 400,000 people could still be trapped in the old city. The moment the corks pops we could receive tens of thousands within the space of 48 hours."

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